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BOSTON — Does the fate of the Yankees’ season rest upon Sunday’s series finale against the Red Sox, with $301.3-million man Gerrit Cole facing a hostile Fenway Park crowd for the first time while wearing “NEW YORK” road grays?
I think that’s a stretch. Yet this attempt to prevent a second straight Sawx sweep should loom large for Aaron Boone’s guys, for this reason:
It’s time to ensure that these surprisingly successful Red Sox won’t reside rent-free in the underachieving Yankees’ heads as they part ways once again.
Or, as Boone said after the Yankees’ 4-2 loss to their historic rivals here Saturday night, dropping them to 0-5 on the season against Alex Cora’s bunch, “We’ve got to find a way to push through against these clubs, especially these clubs in our division.”
The Yankees, in clinching their first series loss after three straight victories, pushed and pushed and pushed. Their starter Jordan Montgomery grinded through some terrible luck. They grounded into two more double plays, tying the Astros for the major-league lead with 74; of course, the Astros nevertheless deploy the industry’s best offense, whereas the Yankees own Major League Baseball’s most disappointing such unit.
And in the eighth and ninth innings, the Yankees mounted a considerable attack against the Red Sox’s bullpen after old pal Nathan Eovaldi largely had his way with them for 7 ²/₃ innings, bringing the potential winning run to the plate in both frames. A second old pal, Adam Ottavino, left the bases loaded in the eighth when he retired Luke Voit on a grounder to shortstop, and then he stranded Yankees on first and second when he struck out Aaron Judge to end the game, thrilling another exuberant full house here.
“We’ve still got a long season left,” Judge said, somewhat accurately, as the Yankees (40-36) fell six games behind the Rays (47-31) and 5 ½ behind the Red Sox (46-31) in the American League East. “Important game tomorrow.”
Absolutely, and you could understand if this one, also important, shook up the Yankees by its result. General manager Brian Cashman spoke before the contest of there being “too many games where there’s a lot of frustration like, ‘Wow, why did that happen?’ or ‘How did that happen?’ We left too many runners on base, a lot of traffic without results, a missed opportunity, an inopportune error where you just go home unhappy.”
They headed to their hotel unhappy after leaving seven on base, though their 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position wound up acceptable. After Montgomery, not one to pat himself on the back, described his six-inning, three-run effort as “pretty good, lot of bad luck but battled through it and gave us six innings.”
The Bosox’s three runs off Montgomery — two in the second and one in the third — came in no small part as a result of three infield hits, one in the second and two in the third, plus an unusual “sacrifice fly” by Bobby Dalbec to Luke Voit in foul territory, Rafael Devers tagging up and scoring as Voit got turned around on the high pop-up. Nutty … and damaging.
Meanwhile, during Eovaldi’s time in the game, the Red Sox and Yankees evenly divvied up the 10 hardest-hit balls, five apiece, and the same went for the 10 balls that traveled the farthest. Most interestingly, Gleyber Torres, who has been immersed in a massive slump, belted a pair of long flyouts — 385 feet in the fifth inning and 359 feet in the seventh — to Boston center fielder Kiké Hernandez. Torres added a sharp single to right field in the ninth. It certainly marked an encouraging night for him.
Yet the Yankees are well beyond moral victories.
“We’ve got to score first early and then we can control the game,” Judge vowed. A sound plan. One that, if executed with Cole at the wheel, can start to remove the albatross hanging over this Yankees team.
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